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Assistant treasurer racks up AU$2,000-a-month internet bill footed by taxpayers

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(Image: Chris Duckett/ZDNet)

Gaffe-prone Australian Assistant Treasurer Stuart Robert is being scrutinised again after charging taxpayers more than AU$2,000 a month for his home internet bills.

Robert was only returned to the federal frontbench a few weeks ago, after he was sacked in 2016 over a trip to China for a mining company he was financially linked with.

But now, the federal government is scrutinising his AU$90-a-day home internet bills, which are dramatically higher than those of all other MPs.

“I’ve asked the special minister of state to report back to me,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison told reporters in Tasmania on Friday.

“Once I’ve heard from the special minister of state, then we’ll take the next step.

“I think [voters would] want an explanation, and that’s why I’ve asked for one.”

Robert’s May bill alone totalled AU$2,832, while the vast majority of other MPs spent under AU$300 a month, and most about AU$100 a month.

Parliamentary expense records in the three months to May show Robert spent more than AU$2,000 a month on average for his Gold Coast residence.

The Queensland Liberal MP told Fairfax Media that connectivity issues were responsible for the high charges, because he had to use a wireless service as cheaper connections were unavailable when the service was installed.

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Your tax dollars at work

“I went and checked my most recent reports; it’s about AU$100 a month,” Labor leader Bill Shorten told reporters in Melbourne.

“There is no doubt that Stuart Robert is a very controversial figure, and that controversy seems to follow him.”

Robert last week confused debt and deficit in a TV interview, and was caught taking a selfie when the interview began.

Labor MP Graham Perrett, who pays less than AU$100 for an unlimited internet deal, said it’s “bizarre” that the assistant treasurer can’t do better.

“Any normal person would be making a call to their internet provider to work out what’s going on,” he told Sky News on Friday.

The assistant treasurer said he racked up a high bill in May because he used 300 gigabytes of data, so he had to pay for extra data after exceeding his 50GB limit.

Robert has been charging taxpayers more than AU$1,000 per month for data at his home since 2016.

“My family home is located a significant distance from the telephone exchange, resulting in poor broadband internet connectivity,” Robert said in a statement late on Friday afternoon.

“At the time, a 4G home Wi-Fi internet connection was the only way to receive reliable and stable internet access

“My internet, like many in semi-rural areas, was previously unreliable, which interfered with my ability to perform my parliamentary and ministerial duties.”

The NBN’s rollout map shows building has begun in the Gold Coast, where the assistant treasurer’s electoral office and postal address is located.

Robert confirmed that he has an NBN installation appointment booked.

“When installed, this will result in an immediate drop in costs to a level similar to other parliamentarians.”

The treatment of Robert has contrasted sharply with the attitude of former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, who in 2014, when he was Communications Minister and had responsibility for the National Broadband Network, famously roused on a member of the public who complained about a lack of fixed-line broadband.

“Just curious:- if connectivity was so vital to you why did you buy a house where there was no broadband available?” Turnbull tweeted at the time.

Speaking in June 2016, disgraced former Deputy Prime Minsiter Barnaby Joyce claimed that internet speeds of 25Mbps were good enough for Australians living in regional and remote parts of the nation.

A week earlier, then Industry, Innovation and Science Minister Christopher Pyne mirrored the same sentiment.

“They simply didn’t need the speeds that Labor was promising,” Pyne said at the time.

This week, NBN revealed that more than 1,500 of its fixed-wireless cells had at least one service downloading more than 1TB of data during the month of May.

Despite this, NBN said in response to a Senate Estimates Question on Notice that it had forecast to have less than 1.4 percent of fixed-wireless users on the 100/40Mbps speed tier by 2022, before the company ripped up plans to offer such services.

As the national broadband wholesaler looks to end its discount at the end of this month that attempted to move users from lower speeds up to 50Mbps plans, retailer Aussie Broadband told ZDNet that ISPs will need to choose between offering high- or low-speed tiers, as they won’t be able to do both.

“Aussie has chosen to play in the higher end of the market using the new bundled offering exclusively, as it provides sufficient CVC capacity to ensure a good experience for customers,” Aussie Broadband MD Phillip Britt told ZDNet on Thursday.

“In our view, it will not be possible for providers offering a service under AU$55 a month floor price and an unlimited offering under AU$69 using the bundles.

“Providers below this price point will most likely be short-changing their customers on the CVC bandwidth provisioned.”

With AAP

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Here’s What Hackers Are Really Doing With Your Info

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F1 Solutions explains what hackers are really doing with your data: selling it, exposing it, holding it for ransom, mining it for valuable info like credit card numbers, using it for other hacks, or simply showing it off. Some hacks have nothing to do with money; instead, the attackers are out for revenge. Others hack into “unhackable” systems or organizations just to show off or leak data in retaliation for something.

However, most cybercriminals are out for financial gain, and stolen data can contain valuable information. From credentials to credit cards and social security numbers, everything today is stored online. Hacked data is also sold in bulk on the dark web. F1 Solutions says social security numbers can sell for as low as $1, credit or debit cards from 50 cents to $1 per card (they’re often sold in bundles), and Paypal credentials can be worth as much as $200. Driver licenses, digital and physical passports, and even medical information are also sold online.

Ransomware, meanwhile, is a growing trend where hackers usually target small and medium organizations, take control of their systems and data, and then offer the company the chance of recovering their computers once a ransom is paid. Given the rise of blockchain technology, it’s also not surprising to learn that digital wallet credentials and credentials to NFTs sites are also increasingly stolen. Finally, data can be used to steal identities, commit fraud, do more hacking, and even vandalize websites.

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Google Workspace (formerly G Suite) is arguably the most tightly integrated office productivity suite available. The services it features — Docs, Sheets, Slides, and Form — already interconnect with other apps like Google Meet, Keep, and Drive, and with smart chips, Google Docs now seamlessly links with Gmail. The update makes the two apps more cohesive, allowing you to draft and send your emails without leaving Docs.

Smart chips belong to the Google Smart Canvas project, which is Google’s vision for tying all of its Workspace products together. You can access smart chips by simply typing @ in Docs. In addition to the new email feature, Google offers chips for rapid formatting and quickly attaching files, media, menus, and even calendar events (via Google Blog). You can also collaborate on your email drafts with other people just like you would a regular document. These other users can make suggestions, comments, or edits without hopping to a different window. Plus, Google Docs’ grammar and spelling checker now works on Gmail, too.

How to send a Gmail draft directly from Google Docs

You can draft emails within Google Docs, and when you’re ready, you’re given a preview inside a pop-up window and the option to directly send the message (via Google Support).

  1. Create a new Google Docs file (you can use this shortcut to create new documents quickly).

  2. Type @ and select Email Draft from the drop-down menu. Alternatively, you can navigate to Insert > Building blocks > Email draft.

  3. You’ll be greeted with the standard template for an email.

  4. In the “To” section, you can use @ to add saved people or type out their email addresses manually.

  5. Write the subject and email message.

  6. Hit the blue Gmail icon floating next to the template.

  7. A small pop-up window will load the Gmail Compose panel with the relevant text fields already filled out. If Gmail doesn’t support your Google Docs font, you might see a related warning.

  8. You can also make additional formatting changes at this point, attach files, insert signatures, schedule the draft to be sent later, or discard it within the Compose Mail pop-up.

  9. Hit send and close the preview window.

Why you should draft an email in Google Docs

Google’s powerful AI grammar and spellcheck tools will help you write strong, clear, and error-free messages. That may not be a big deal if you’re sending a straightforward reply or question, but you should consider drafting your next important email in Google Docs. Long-form emails sometimes require outlines, charts or tables, which can’t be designed in the Gmail Compose window. You can create, integrate, and email those tables, outline menus, and charts directly from Google Docs, saving you the hassle of copying and pasting them back and forth.

Google Docs also saves a copy of the draft; it can be quickly found with search, retrieved, and edited on the fly. The autosave feature should come in handy when sending an email to multiple addresses, as well. Instead of loading a new window for each recipient, you can simply hit the mail button next to the Gmail template every time. For emails that require approval or contribution from your team members, turn on the share feature built into Docs (via Google). You can then collaborate on emails and receive suggestions without leaving the Google Docs window.

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Noted by Insider, the deal can be terminated at any point before it becomes finalized in October, for a meager $1 billion. Twitter has asserted that the deal will indeed go through at the full price agreed upon by both parties — $54.20 per share — regardless of any reasoning put up by Elon Musk to back away from the deal, or to drive the price down. Regardless, the Twitter purchase debacle hasn’t been good for Elon Musk’s net worth, which is still heavily tied into Tesla stock prices.

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